The Royals are among the clubs that have taken a look at Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The presence of two other cost-controlled left-handed-hitting outfielders with limited power (Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith) has “clouded” the future of Markakis in Atlanta, he notes.
Given Markakis’ age, performance and salary, he’s a logical candidate to be moved, though his $11MM annual salary figures to pose a problem in trade talks. While Markakis is walking at a 10 percent clip for the second straight season and has shown a bit more pop in 2016 than he did in 2015 (.105 ISO vs. .080 ISO), he’s still a far cry from the 15- to 20-homer on-base machine that he was in his peak days with the Orioles. Markakis’ .296/.370/.376 batting line last season actually checked in above league average despite a lack of home runs, per OPS+ and wRC+, but he’s at a diminished .260/.337/.366 this season.
Optimists could look at Markakis, however, and note that his 33.1 percent hard-contact rate is the second-highest of his career, and his 22.4 percent line-drive rate is a marked improvement over his 2015 pace. Markakis is also popping up at the lowest rate of his career (four percent), and defensive metrics look favorably upon his work in 2016 (+3 DRS, +1.3 UZR/150). Silver linings aside, it seems quite likely that the Braves would have to absorb some of the salary owed to Markakis, especially if talks with the Royals gain any kind of traction. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo linked the Royals to Markakis back in May but noted that his salary is “an issue” for Kansas City.
The Braves, Bowman writes, will be looking to add some power to their outfield over the winter. And with Inciarte and Smith set to line up in two of the three spots, adding a corner outfield bat with some home run pop would only be feasible in the absence of Markakis. One player who could also factor into the outfield again in a limited capacity, Bowman notes, is Jeff Francoeur. The Braves love Francoeur’s leadership and don’t plan on trading him barring a surprising offer and may even attempt to re-sign the 32-year-old. While needing to be “overwhelmed” for Francoeur at this stage of his career certainly sounds strange, one has to imagine that the offers would be fairly light in nature, and the Braves may prefer simply hanging onto him rather than picking up some cash or a low-level prospect of little note.
From the Royals’ side of the equation, adding Markakis would probably shift Jarrod Dyson into a true fourth outfield role and allow him to bounce around between all three positions as needed. Dyson has shared time with Paulo Orlando in right field this year, but Orlando’s unsustainable production through the first two months has quickly begun to fade. He’s hitting just .267/.293/.326 since June 1. The Royals appear to be open to adding a right field alternative of some nature, as Kansas City has also recently been linked to Josh Reddick.
Bowman’s column also discusses the Braves’ rotation, with GM John Coppolella once again stating that he will not trade his No. 1 starter, Julio Teheran. Coppolella says he’s turned away about a dozen general managers that have come calling on Teheran, and it doesn’t sound as if the team has any intentions of changing its stance as the Aug.1 non-waiver deadline gets closer. Per Bowman, the Braves have fielded calls from three clubs on right-hander Lucas Harrell, although the return on him would be minimal, as Harrell has made four starts with very mixed results for the Braves — 23 1/3 innings, 4.24 ERA, 17-to-9 K/BB ratio — and has a limited big league track record. Most clubs would probably look at him as a depth piece rather than a genuine option to upgrade their starting pitching.